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JBS Corner

Team Member Spotlights

Rafael & Marta Avelar, Forklift Operator Hide Plant

On November 26, 2018, Rafael Avelar celebrated 12 years in Canada. Originally from El Salvador, he arrived in Brooks as a Temporary Foreign Worker to work for the company - then Lakeside - in 2006.

After a long application process to the program, Rafael was one of sixteen people chosen to work in Canada out of 1,000 original applicants.

Rafael says the first year was difficult to be away from his family, living with very little English language, in a town where, at the time, there were few other Spanish speaking people. However, his wife Marta (Alicia), continuously supported him, encouraging him to embrace the opportunity before him.

“I had to change my ‘chip’ - my mindset,” Rafael says. “Even though the job is hard and it is tough to be away from your loved ones, it is harder to give up the opportunity and go back—to not know what could have happened.”

Rafael decided to change his “chip” and worked hard to get his permanent residency. Alicia and their two daughters joined him in 2009.

Since he started, Rafael has learned all of the jobs in the Hide Plant at JBS Canada. He currently works as a fork lift operator, a role he has held for the last seven years.

Alicia says she is incredibly grateful to her daughters, Ligia and Sintia, who helped her while she learned English and have always been a great support to her in all of her endeavours. After she arrived in Canada, she also received support and encouragement from the ladies at SPEC Association, something she is very appreciative today.

In the first few years, Alicia took English classes and worked different jobs including as a cook and also as a cleaner.

When SPEC and BCIS hosted a “skills discovery” course for women in the community, Alicia says she discovered that becoming a Chef might be a fitting career path.

“I always thought about becoming a nurse,” she says. “But in the course, I found that one of my strengths was to take care of people, and cooking has always been easy for me, so I decided to become a chef!”

Alicia learned as much as she could while working at Aces Lounge and the Nineteen restaurant at the Brooks Golf Club.

In 2017, Alicia and Rafael opened the Old Season Restaurant in the JBS Canada Centre, serving Western and El Salvadorian cuisine.

Visit them and try the authentic El Salvadorian Pupusas— a delicious dish of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling.

Liban Ibrahim, Harvest Floor, B-Shift

Liban came to Canada with his sister in 2008, arriving originally to Edmonton. For the first two months, Liban worked in snow removal, an experience that was quite different from his previous job in a mechanic shop in Djibouti. Originally from Ethiopia, he says he came to Canada because it is a free country and he wanted to work, and cleaning snow was a job.

After his sister decided to move to Brooks in pursuit of employment at JBS Canada, she convinced Liban to join her. Liban began his career at JBS in March 2009 and has been a solid member of the Harvest B-shift team for nearly ten years. “I like to work,” he says with a smile. “I’m happy here, I get too bored if I am not working.” In the time that he has been a part of the team, Liban has had the opportunity to work in most of the roles on the Harvest floor, currently working as a floater wherever help is required. His sister is also still a member of the Harvest A-shift team.

Liban says he thinks about his family every day. In 2017 he submitted his application to sponsor his wife and two kids, ages 10 and 12, to come to Canada from Ethiopia.

He is currently continuing his English education with hopes to apply for his citizenship within the next year. In his time off, Liban likes to go swimming at the JBS Canada Centre, visit with friends or watch action movies from his country. Although ultimately he enjoys working and hopes to become a Supervisor.

Ibrahim Abdelmula, General Foreman, B-Shift, Fabrication

Ibrahim was attending University in Egypt before he was given the opportunity to come to Canada. He says his options were: to immigrate to Canada or go back to his home country, Sudan, and fight in the war. Ibrahim landed in the Regina, Saskatchewan in the middle of winter in 2002, and he says he is happy to live in Canada, where it is safe, there is good work and a person can get a good education.

For the first seven months in Regina, Ibrahim was enrolled in school—equivalent to grade 9. Later that year he was given the option to apply to college or to go to work. Though he would have liked to continue his education, Ibrahim chose to find a job to help support his family back home.

He started at JBS on the Chuck line on A-shift, however within a year he had worked on many of the lines and was promoted to Lead Hand. Two years later he became Supervisor and by 2005 he was working as a Floater because he says he had done almost all of the jobs on the floor. In 2006 he was asked to move to B-shift as a Supervisor where he worked until 2013. Ibrahim left the facility in 2013 but after a brief time in the oil and gas industry, he rejoined the team in 2016 as General Foreman on B-shift.

He says he is proud of his team because their results have improved tremendously. His favourite thing about working at JBS is that the company ensures that the people are trained properly, that the floor is staffed appropriately and that the team is set up with the tools to succeed.

He says he sees that people are happy to come to work now, people are smiling on the line and it feels more like a family. He feels that the Supervisors are trained on how to lead, how to deliver results and how to follow through and that everyone is always striving to do better.

Andrea Diaz, Human Resources Business Analyst

Andrea came to Canada in 2010, nearly three years after her husband, Efrain, came to Brooks as a temporary foreign worker. Though she had been a branch manager at a financial institution in Bogota, Colombia prior to coming to Canada, Andrea says it had been difficult for Efrain to find stable work. She had never thought about moving to a different country, but after one of Efrain’s cousins had secured work in Canada, the idea became more interesting.

“Even though I had to start a new career and leave my friends and family, I had to consider my husband and our daughters and where we would have better opportunities for the future,” she says.

Andrea began her career at JBS in 2012 in the packaging department. After only two months, she joined the training department where she spent one year before moving to human resources as a clerk. While working in HR, Andrea grew her role and implemented new procedures and data management techniques. In 2015 she was promoted to Human Resource Business Analyst, a role that supports all management personnel in the facility.

Andrea says she is very thankful to the community of Brooks and to JBS for welcoming her family. She has had the opportunity to see the city grow and believes it is a great, safe city to raise her three daughters, ages 17, 11 and nearly 2 years.

“Living in Brooks has allowed us to stay close as a family. We are able to spend more time together,” Andrea says. “When we first moved here, we went through many ups and downs. But now I know that everything happens for a good reason.”

At JBS, Andrea says the company has had a big part in helping her grow as a person and also in her career. She has seen the company evolve and is grateful to be a part of it.

Amanda Robertshaw, Supervisor Stores Department

Amanda grew up in BC, graduating from a high school in Abbotsford. She came to Brooks in 2008 after her mom and a few friends decided to move out East a couple years earlier. Amanda started at JBS Canada in November 2008 in the Material Handling department on B-Shift. She had been working at a newspaper however became interested in perusing a new career so, at the insistence of her mom, she came to Brooks. Her mom, Carol Jamison, started working on the Fabrication Floor and is currently a Safety Train-er at the facility.

Amanda moved to the Quality Assurance department after working as a Bin Loader in Material Handling for about a year and a half. She then joined the Stores team in 2013, where she currently works as a Supervisor.

Amanda says that she likes living in Brooks—despite the affect the dry climate has on her allergies. “I take an allergy pill every day,” she says. “ But I have no intention of leaving, almost all my family is here, including my sister and brother-in-law.”

In 2013, Amanda was introduced to her husband, Ferney, through a friend. They are now the proud parents of their four-year-old son named Liam.

Ferney, Liam and Amanda like to travel, they try to go somewhere every other year. When they travel to Colombia they are fortunate to stay with Ferney’s family and adventure to smaller towns where they can experience the local culture. They also have friends and family in Cuba and friends who lived in the Cayman Islands. “I love the clear blue Caribbean water,” says Amanda. “I like to be on the beach or dig for shells. Most of all, I love that my allergies just don’t bother me there!”

Amanda says that when she and Ferney retire they would love to move somewhere and live on the beach. For now though, they are busy with Liam who played his first season of soccer last year and loves to play on his quad. “His ultimate favourite are the Power Rangers. He knows all the moves and loves to play with the toys,” Amanda says.

Lonas Mayo, Maintenance Supervisor

Lonas grew up in Newfoundland, one of ten children. “It was interesting growing up in a three bedroom home with such a large family,” he says. “We grew up with strong morals. Our father taught us that we always needed to work hard for what we wanted. That wherever we worked, we must take ownership, act like it is our own and take responsibility for it.” Lonas and his siblings all began different careers—in many different professions. One of his brothers is a doctor, another is a clergyman, and one sister is a nurse.

Their father worked in a fish plant in their hometown for 42 years. Lonas also worked in a fish plant, in roles ranging from cutting fish, to Millwright and Mechanic for 31 years. While working, he completed his Journeyman Millwright education. Lonas and his wife, Doreen, moved to Brooks in 2007 and he was hired as a Journeyman Millwright at the JBS facility two short days later. “We moved to be closer to our children and grandchildren who live in Brooks,” he says. Doreen is also an important part of the JBS team as an Inventory Specialist in the Stores department. His son, Barry, worked in the stores department for five years. His daughter, Jill, works in Material Handling and his son-in-law, Les, is a Journeyman Mechanic in the Maintenance Department.

Lonas and Doreen have four grandchildren who live within walking distance. Though he says the “flat land” is different for him, he believes that home is where family is.

“My grandkids are my life. We’ll go to the movies, shopping, to get some ice cream, basically anything that they want to do, Grandpa is there for them.”

Lonas and Doreen were married in June 2017 on a beautiful summer day. “It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” he says. His mother, who is 86-years-old, also made the trip from Newfoundland to the wedding.

Lonas was promoted to a Supervisor role in the Maintenance department in March 2018. He says that he has enjoyed working at JBS and that there have been many positive changes in the facility. Though he is still training in his role as C-shift Supervisor on the Maintenance Team, he looks forward to working with his team and sharing some of the knowledge that he has gained in 40 years as a Millwright.

Gissela Ramirez Goxcon, International Recruiting & Immigration Specialist

Two short weeks after being married in 2014, Gissela and her husband, Sergio, moved to Canada. Sergio had been living in Brooks since 2012 when he arrived as a temporary foreign worker, working for JBS. Until their wedding, Gissela and Sergio lived apart for nearly three years. “We knew it was going to be hard,” Gissela says. “But it was surprising because the distance actually made our relationship stronger. It really made us appreciate the time that we spent talking, it built a lot of trust.”

Since High School, Gissela and Sergio had been sweet on each other and after Gissela had been in University for two years, they began to date. “He’s my high school sweetheart,” she says with a big smile.

Gissela completed her law degree in her hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, and worked as a corporate lawyer for nearly six years. Sergio was working as a Supervisor at a food processing facility and heard of an opportunity to join JBS in Canada. “We were planning to build a life together and we saw the move as an opportunity to grow as a family together.” Gissela says. Though it was a tough decision to leave the career that she had built in Mexico, Gissela says she is very grateful to be in Canada.

“It is a totally different culture here. The people in Mexico are very warm, but they are hesitant to help each other sometimes,” she says. “Here, because the quality of life is better, people take the time to take care of each other and their community. Even as an outsider I have always felt accepted here.”

In 2013, Gissela’s only brother, Hector, also moved to Brooks and began working at JBS as a Meat Cutter and in 2017 he joined the Quality Assurance department. Since then, his wife and son have joined him. “I think the person who is most happy is my 11-year-old nephew,” Gissela says. “Because of the insecurity in Mexico you always have to take precautions. Here, my nephew is enjoying the freedom to play outside, walk to school and hang out with his friends outside after school.” For the first three months after moving to Brooks, Gissela felt like she was on vacation. However, as the time wore on, she began to get restless. In 2015 she joined the JBS team as a Scaler on the Fabrication floor. Six months later she was promoted to Safety Clerk. About one year later, she joined the Recruiting department as the International Recruiting and Immigration Specialist where she supports temporary foreign workers to become Permanent Residents of Canada, a process that she and Sergio also completed in 2016.

When Sergio arrived to JBS he began working on the Fabrication floor as a Rib Boner and Lead Hand on B-shift. He moved briefly to A-shift on the Plate line before entering his current role as Lead Hand in the Blast Freezer on B-shift. Gissela and Sergio enjoy watching movies and spending time together when they have the time off.

Harold Hayes Jr., General Foreman, Harvest

Harold grew up on a farm near Vilna, AB where his family raised cattle, horses, chickens, hogs and sheep. With six siblings, and 32 step-siblings, Harold says life was never boring.

He began his career at JBS in 2000 when he applied for a temporary job while on vacation visiting his family in the area. He began working on the Harvest floor on B-shift and over the course of the last 18 years, he has worked his way across many areas of the floor, holding positions such as Safety Rep, Lead Hand, Supervisor and in 2016 he was promoted to General Foreman on A-Shift.

“I enjoy the work,” Harold says. ‘We grew up with a ‘farmer’s code’, where a handshake is taken as someone’s word, you do what you say you are going to do, and you mean what you say. I bring these values to work with me everyday.” Harold recalls the time when he discovered that an old house that was located on their property at Vilna was actually full of books. He says that the previous owner had been a school teacher and had kept many old textbooks. From those books, Harold’s love of reading grew and from them, he and his siblings were self-taught. Many members of his family have worked at JBS at one time or another, including his sister Lauraly who works on B-Shift. One exception is his brother, Hugh, who is in the Canadian Armed Forces and completed three tours in Afghanistan.

Harold loves anything to do with the outdoors. He enjoys camping, fishing, picking wild blueberries in his secret spot and taking his dogs—a Husky-cross named Akira and an Australia Shepherd called Asha - for walks. He also loves to read, play video games and entertain his nieces and nephews. However, ever since he and a friend stumbled upon Comic-con during a trip to Calgary, one of his favourite activities is to attend themed expos and conventions. “It’s just a fun atmosphere, everyone there has similar interests and it is fun to meet new people,” he says. Since then, Harold has attended 14 Expos and Conventions in Calgary and three in Edmonton.

At every event hosted by JBS Canada, Harold is one of the first team members to volunteer and the last to leave. He is a great asset to the JBS Canada team and we thank him for all that he does.

Duk Hyung Cho, Tray Former Operator, Box and Sealer

Duk Hyung Cho, “Duki”, as he is called by his team in the Box Shop, came to JBS in 2006. Originally from South Korea, Duk, his wife, Seung Hui Cho, and their daughter, arrived in Canada in 1994 under “investment immigration” status. Upon landing in Vancouver, Duk opened a restaurant that sold hot Chinese-style food, cold sandwiches and Japanese Sushi, running it for nearly a year. After selling the restaurant, he purchased a pool hall where he operated from noon to midnight every day for five years. “My wife was ready to have some time to relax, so I sold that business,” Duk says. “But in 2006 I was 60-years-old and finding another job was difficult, until a friend recommended that I apply at JBS.”

Upon meeting with a JBS Recruiter at a job fair in Vancouver, Duk was offered a job in janitorial. “But I told her that I was ready to work a more difficult job.” After Duk passed the medical he was given a job in the Box Shop, where he has worked for 12 years. As Duk’s wife, Seung, had worked in a bakery in Vancouver, she was hired at Safeway here in Brooks.

“I feel very happy and lucky,” he says. “When I started at JBS, the Supervisor was very kind and she taught me everything that I needed to know. The Team Lead, Judy, was also very helpful, she showed me exactly what to do with the different lines.”

In January 2017, Duk was diagnosed with stomach cancer and underwent chemotherapy treatments for five months. “Everyone told me I needed to stay home. But I wanted to keep working because if I stay home and slow down, I feel my health will become more of a problem,” he says. One year later and Duk’s CT Scan in January 2018 came back clean.

“I plan to work until I am 75,” he says with a big smile.

Duk says that he feels the people in Brooks are very kind, especially the people in his neighbourhood who have helped him a lot. “On the day we moved, September 1, 2006, the man who did our home inspection, Ray, brought 15 players from the American Football team and one teacher from the school across the street to help us move!”

Duk and Seung have two grandchildren, one boy and one girl, who live in South Korea with their mom who had returned to S. Korea after graduating from High School. They like to visit every two to three years.

Larry & Leah Isidro, Grading Camera Operator, Cooler & Machine Operator, Rendering

When Leah, who is a camera operator in the cooler at JBS Canada, and her 15-year-old daughter, Kyla, attended a birthday party for a friend last summer, they did not expect that two months later Kyla would be crowned Miss Teen Globe at the Pilipinas Canada Pageant 2017 in Calgary.

Though Kyla joined the competition in mid-august, later than any other competitor, she diligently practiced each Saturday in Calgary until the main event which took place in October. “I was the only competitor from a small town and many people didn’t know where Brooks was,” Kyla says. “Participating in a pageant is much harder work that I thought!”

Kyla practiced walking in an evening gown, presenting herself on stage, showcasing her talent – playing the drums and carrying a “national costume,” which was handmade by her dad, Larry, and a friend, John Arvie Diaz. Her costume weighed 25 pounds and was representative of the Kaamulan Festival, an ethnic cultural festival that takes place in Northern Minandao, where Kyla’s mom, Leah briefly lived. “The festival is similar to thanksgiving here, in that it represents giving thanks for a good harvest,” says Leah.

Kyla will be competing in the Miss Wonderland and Cinderella of the World Pageant, which will be held August 6 – 12 in Calgary. On August 9, delegates from the pageant will come to Brooks to participate in the swimwear portion of the event at Kinbrook Island Park. “When we invited the pageant directors to Brooks, we showed them Lake Newell. They loved how beautiful it is and have decided to hold the swimwear competition there. They said it feels like a resort,” says Leah. The International Pageant will include competitors from countries around the globe, including Colombia, Brazil, Panama and the United States.

Larry arrived in Canada in 2007 as a temporary foreign worker, seeking a better life for his wife and three children. He began working in Rendering as a machine operator, utilizing similar experience having previously worked in a meat processing facility in the Philippines. Leah and their children joined Larry in Brooks in 2010 and Leah began working in the cooler only two months later. “JBS gave us the opportunity to give our children a better future,” says Larry. “The work is good, we work with nice people and we are content and happy,” says Leah.

Adut Arok, Production Supervisor

Adut came to Canada with her mom and siblings after spending six years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Though her family is originally from South Sudan, Adut was born in North Sudan and at the age of 9, she fled the country with her family. “It was horrible. We didn’t know where we were going until we got to this place called Ethiopia,” she says. “ We walked for months and months. We saw people gunned down in front of us. It was like a bad nightmare.”

The family was given the opportunity to move to Canada on November 6, 2002, landing directly in Calgary where they have made their home.

When Adut and six friends decided to move to Brooks from Calgary in 2011, it took her a few months to get used to living in a small town. Now, nearly eight years later, she says she can’t imagine wanting to move back to a big city. “This city is great for my kids,” she says. “They can be raised in a good environment, with a good education. They are growing up so they can choose their own life later, but for now, under my watch, I know they are safe here.”

Adut says that she applied to work at this facility two days after moving to Brooks and within a week she was starting her new career. Her first role was on B-Shift working on the Loin Line, however she was quickly promoted to Supervisor only four months later. “I love the people I work with. I always say that we spend nearly more time together than we do at our homes, I treat them like they are my own family,” she says. Adut believes that though she wears the blue Supervisor hat, the colour is just a colour. “We are a team. Even though there are so many languages and people from different countries we always work together, we take care of each other and I think it is amazing to have that,” she says.

When she is not with her work family, Adut spends time with her four children. “I’m raising them alone, and they know I work a lot so we work as a team at home as well,” she says.

Her kids, ages 14, 13, 11 and 4, love to play sports, dance and sing. Adut loves to swim and she also plays volleyball, basketball and soccer when she can.

Machar Kuch, Stacker, Loading Dock

Machar joined the JBS Canada team in October 2007. His first role in the company was working on the fabrication floor until he joined the material handling team as a palletizer in 2010. Since that time, Machar also worked briefly in the box shop before he joined the shipping department in 2014.

As a young boy, Machar and his family fled the war in South Sudan. They lived in a refugee camp in Kenya from 1990 until 2004. He completed his education in the refugee camp but in 2004 he was called back to South Sudan to work.

“I was called and I had to go for an interview. They hired me as a Manager in a hotel,” he says. Though he travelled back and forth to Kenya a couple of times, he says it was never safe. “There, the people are shot in the road. Even in Kenya it was not safe to travel. Every time I went I would just pray and go.”

When Machar’s cousin sponsored him to come to Canada in 2007, he was excited about the opportunity, however it meant that he had to leave his family in Kenya. In 2017, he was able to sponsor them to come to Canada. He says he is very happy for his job at JBS because it helped him to support his family and finally bring them together. “When you work hard, you are rewarded and you don't want to quit. I never thought about leaving JBS because I know my job and I know how to do it properly,” he says.

Machar and his wife, Martha, have six children ages 4 to 14-years-old, including two girls, aged 6, who are twins. His family is enjoying living in Canada. He says they have even commented that the summertime is too hot! “Living in Brooks with small kids is nice. It is quiet and it is a good place for a family,” he says.

Machar has worked as a liaison between the union and his team at JBS since 2013. “We work like a team. I listen to the team member and the supervisor and I take the report to the union. We work together to come up with a solution,” he says.

When Machar has time off, he enjoys spending it with his family, traveling to see other nearby cities or going to the waterpark.

Jayson Plotzki, Sales Associate

After completing two years of Business Management courses at Medicine Hat College, Jayson was unsure of where he wanted his future to go, so he began working at this facility on the Harvest Floor. The idea was that it would serve as temporary employment until he decided what he wanted to do. That was in 1993. Twenty-four years later, he says he stayed here because he saw that the company would always open new doors for opportunity.

When the facility expanded in 1996 and opened the new Material Handling area, Jayson embraced his next opportunity when he was offered to become one of seven people to start-up the new department. “There was six supervisors and one superintendent that essentially created the new department,” he says. “We worked long hours, learning all about how to warehouse and ship meat, it was new to all of us.”

Though the learning curve was steep, Jayson worked hard as a Supervisor and in 2009 was promoted to Superintendent where he spent time managing all areas including shipping, palletizing, case sealer, box shop, receiving, dispatch, shag drivers and blast freezers.

In 2012, another opportunity arose when he was offered a role on the sales team. “It was a chance to learn something different and know more about the business. Again the learning curve was extreme, but the people I work with, the training and support they gave me helped me grow throughout the years.”

Today, though he manages many different accounts, Jayson is the Account Manager for one of our largest buyers, Loblaw. Loblaw is the largest retailer in Canada, with banners that include Superstore, No Frills and Shoppers Drug Mart. Jayson says his main role as an Account Manager is to maintain relationships and help his customers to keep organized. “They trust us as a company because we are the top protein company in the world—they know we didn't get there by accident. My role is to ensure our supply to them is accurate and consistent,” he says.

Jayson says that the investment that JBS has committed to our team and our community is felt by our customers as well. “JBS has made us a world-class company. Through the ownership displayed by our team members, our customers see that we have a higher commitment to our product.”

Jayson plans to continue to grow in his role and see where the road takes him—hopefully retired on a beach somewhere someday.

Karen Burnat, Registered Nurse

We want to wish Karen Burnat a very happy retirement! Karen has been an important member of our Health Services team since July 1998.

After graduating and writing her Registered Nurse exam, Karen began working at the hospital in Brooks. “It was the first year that the new hospital was open, I worked primarily in the pediatrics unit but also spent time in acute care and other areas,” she says. Karen has also been a registered nurse responder for more than 20 years and a volunteer with the fire department in Jenner, AB. “I’ve seen casualties and trauma throughout my years, but I think it has made me a stronger person. And I’ve always had the support of my health services family.”

Karen and her late husband, Ted, met after her friend from nursing school introduced them at a party in Buffalo, AB —located about one hour northeast of Brooks. “It was kind of a ‘blind date’ situation,” she says. “But in the end, I transferred from Mount Royal College in Calgary to Medicine Hat College to specialize in pediatric nursing, and to be nearer to Ted.”

In her time at this facility, Karen says she has seen lots of changes here and weathered many concerns that hit the cattle/beef industry. “Through BSE, when the prices dropped, I felt the effects both at home and here. It was always rewarding to have a job to come to.”

Karen and Ted raised their four children, three sons and a daughter, on a farm near Jenner, AB. They raised cattle and Ted grew some grain.

During the strike in 2004, Karen was one of the first people to cross the picket line. She remembers it as a challenging time, however she does feel a bond with the people that she passed that time with.

While working at this facility, Karen has had the opportunity to be the nurse on recruiting trips domestically and internationally to Mexico and the Philippines. “I love this job. I love the people and our Health Services family,” she says.

Thought she says she will miss many people, Karen is looking forward to enjoying her retirement, and has included some “bucket list” trips in her plans in the near future, including a trip to Las Vegas to see George Strait, Reba Macintyre and the National Finals Rodeo, and a cruise through the Panama Canal—a trip she enjoyed with Ted for their 30th anniversary.

“I’m also looking forward to getting back into my hobbies, like quilting, and spending more time with my grandson Cooper.”

Adbirahman Jama Issa, Lead Hand, Case Sealer

Abdulie originally came to Brooks because he wanted to work and save some money before moving to Montreal. While he already speaks six languages, he says he planned to go to Montreal to learn French and experience the culture.

However, nearly 19 years later, he continues to be an important member of the JBS team.

Since he started his career at JBS in palletizing in the Material Handling Department, Abdulie has had the opportunity to learn the roles on the receiving dock, in the box shop, material handling and the case sealer.

In 2011 he became Lead Hand in the Box Shop and Case Sealer. “The box shop supplies the boxes to the packaging department. Once the boxes are filled, they come to the case sealer. If there are any delays getting the boxes to packaging or a delay in the case sealer, the whole system gets backed up,” he says. Abdulie’s role is instrumental to ensuring the operation runs smoothly each day.

Abdulie was born and raised in Somalia but fled to Ethiopia when the Civil War broke out in 1991. He lived there for about two years before moving to Italy where he lived for another couple of years. He was living in Switzerland when he was given the opportunity to move to Canada in 1995.

With ambitions to become a Producer, Abdulie attended Motion Picture school in Victoria, British Columbia, for a short time. After discovering that the cost of living in Victoria and Vancouver was too high, he decided to move to Calgary, which is where he heard about employment opportunities in a place called Brooks.

On January 4, 1999, Abdulie began working at what was then called IBP. “I stay because I like the people,” he says. “You get all kinds of people, it’s a good balance.”

Abdulie’s wife, Sahra, also works at JBS in the cooler on B-shift. The couple met when Abdulie visited Africa in 2005. They were married in 2008 and in 2010 Sahra came to join him in Canada.

While Abdulie works during the day and Sahra works in the evenings, they share time with their three children who are 6, 4, and 1.5-years-old.

They enjoy time on the weekends when they go to the park, swimming at the JBS Canada Centre, or ride their bikes.

Abdulie is also in the process of getting his fourth-class Boiler Operator ticket. He has completed the schooling, and is now working on getting his steam time while working.

CherryLou Evangelista, Lead Hand, Harvest Floor

CherryLou Evangelista arrived to Canada in 2010, three years after her husband was recruited to join the team at what was then called XL Foods. Three months after arriving to Brooks with her two daughters, CherryLou secured a job on the Fabrication floor at the facility as well. Though she left JBS for about a year, she decided to apply again, which was when she was hired to the Harvest floor.

“After I left, I realized how good it is to work here,” she says about JBS. “The people are treated right and the management recognizes those who work hard.”

In only six months following her return, CherryLou was promoted to Lead Hand on the Harvest Floor. “I like to learn as much as I can. Even when I’m not asked to, I like to try each role so that I know what it takes to do the job—even if it’s a job typically for men, I will try it,” she says with a smile.

CherryLou’s husband, Emmanuel, celebrated his ten year anniversary in Canada this year and continues to work at JBS as a shag driver.

He and their daughters, Grace and Glizel, became Canadian citizens in March 2016, an accomplishment they are very proud of. CherryLou is also working towards citizenship and hopes to apply early next year.

The Evangelista family loves living in Brooks. It is much different from their previous home in the Bulacan province, Philippines, where CherryLou says it is very hard to find employment.

“I was sad to leave our families and friends in the Philippines,” she admits. “But when I was hired at JBS, it was my first job ever, and I was so happy to be able to help our family. One year later we bought our house in Brooks.” And now, CherryLou’s daughter, Grace, has aspirations to become a veterinarian after she graduates.

CherryLou and her family are very active with the Victory Church in Brooks and enjoy volunteering every second Sunday to drive the bus that picks kids up for the Super Church for Kids youth group.

Dean Ferrigan, Shipping Superintendent

When Dean Ferrigan hopped on the Greyhound bus 18 years ago to make the 40-hour journey from Sioux St. Marie, Ontario to Brooks, Alberta he had $20 in his pocket and one backpack full of clothes.

Upon arriving to Brooks and finding his way to what was then called IBP, he briefly wondered what he had gotten himself into. “At that time, I came to live in the ATCO trailers that were located at the facility,” Dean says. “When I arrived on Sunday, I didn't have anything, and I will admit that a flash of doubt crossed my mind.”

Dean first heard of the opportunity at the facility in Brooks, Alberta, from a job fair in Sioux St. Marie, where he grew up. “I was unemployed at the time and the presentation that they gave at the job fair interested me, it sounded like a good opportunity.”

On the Monday morning in March, 1999 that Dean began his role on the Fabrication floor, the doubt was replaced by excitement. “I started with about 30 other people from all over Canada. We were all excited to start working.”

In only six months, Dean was promoted to Lead Hand on the Break chain, Arm line and Strip line. In three years he became Supervisor, working in Cattle receiving and Rendering. Later he spent one year as General Foreman in Slaughter and four years as General Foreman on the Fabrication floor before entering his current role as Superintendent in Material Handling. “I think I am one of few people here who has worked in all areas—from where we receive the cattle to where we put the boxed beef on trucks for shipment,” he says.

Though he admits that every area has its challenges, he feels that each role prepared him for the next, giving him knowledge and skills that are transferable.

“I built my career here,” Dean says. “We’re a team and I look forward to continually accepting new challenges.” Dean enjoys spending time with his two beautiful daugh-ters who are 14 and 4-years-old.

While living on an acreage out-side of the city, he raises chick-ens, sheep and a horse. He also spends much of his time play-ing or watching sports.

Shivanie Thakurdeen, Process Clerk

When Shivanie first came to Canada to visit family in Toronto she hoped that she would find a way to make her home here. “I had a very nice life in Guyana,” she says. “However, years ago the opportunities for young people were limited. There’s so much support for newcomers in Canada, especially for employment and even the opportunity to continue to go to school.”

In 1998, Shivanie married her husband, Dev, in a traditional Hindu ceremony in Winnipeg. After a brief time living in Regina, SK., they moved to Brooks. Shivanie began her career at JBS in Packaging on the Cow Line in June, 2000. “I grew up on a farm, my family raised cattle, but to see the whole process for the first time was amazing. It is interesting to see everybody working together safely,” she says. She spent some time as a Manifester and in 2008 she became the Clerk for Production. “I love to work with the Team Members and with the Supervisors and Management. I feel that I can support them, not only in the job, but also as someone they can come to if they need anything—advice, just to vent, or even to ask the difficult questions.”

Shivanie and her family became Canadian citizens just over 10 years ago. Shortly after, her parents Puran and Angie Goorcharan also came to Canada. Both of whom still work at JBS also. “Today, information is much more available to our Team Members,” Shivanie says. “Our successes and our challenges are being shared. The Supervisors are doing a great job to get to know their Team Members and I believe that it makes for a more inclusive environment.”

Shivanie says that her family life revolves around soccer. Her 10-year-old son plays in both the indoor and outdoor leagues. This past winter the family travelled all over the province while he competed in Rec league. Though her 14-year-old daughter doesn't play, she enjoys to read and support her brother at his games. “It is true that home is where the heart is,” she says. “Brooks is home. My family is here and I feel accepted.”

Shivanie also acts as the Vice-chair for the JBS 5S Committee, a role that is giving her the opportunity to travel to Brazil in May, along with two other colleagues from the committee. “The 5S program has really transformed the plant. We are now working with the Team Members, providing training and I believe we can see the changes. I am excited to see how the Team Members in Brazil are being motivated and hope to bring some ideas back here,” she says.

Narel Aurelio, Shift Superintendent

In May 2017, Narel will celebrate his tenth year in Canada. He was an employee of the Philippine Government before reading about the opportunity to work at, what was then called Lakeside Packers, now JBS Food Canada ULC (JBS), in the local newspaper. After a discussion with his wife, Emelcris, he decided to take the chance and submit his application. At the time Emelcris, hadn't really thought about moving to another country but she says the next thing she knew Narel was on his way to Canada.

On Victoria Day 2007 Narel arrived in Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker and began his career at the facility in Brooks, Alberta as a Meat Cutter.

When Emelcris and their three daughters came to live with him in 2010 she says they were so excited. “Brooks is the only city that I would ever live in,” says Emelcris. “It’s such a caring community, it feels like we’re part of a bigger family.”

After beginning his career as a Meat Cutter on the Fabrication floor ten years ago, Narel is now a Shift Superintendent on the Slaughter floor at JBS. Even after 10 years, he says he has never seriously thought of leaving JBS or Brooks because he feels a debt of gratitude. JBS was a gateway for his family to have hope. The company gave them the opportunity to build a better life and to give his daughters more options for a better future. He also says there are a lot of opportunities within the company that await those who have patience and perseverance.

Narel bought a house close to his daughters’ school so that he wouldn't have to be concerned about them walking alone. All three of the girls enjoy playing sports, especially basketball. Beginning in 2010 Narel organized a basketball league for the Philippine community in Brooks. Eventually people from other immigrant groups and even neighboring cities began to join the league.

Emelcris is very involved in the community as a Newcomer Integration Worker at SPEC Association for Children and Families. She is also an English as a Second Language Teacher at Brooks Community Adult Learning Council where she says about 90% of her students are also Team Members at JBS. “You cannot find another company in Canada that gives people an opportunity like JBS does,” she says. “Even those without previous experience or education can grow and build a future with JBS.”

In 2015, Narel and his family became Canadian Citizens, an achievement that they are very proud of. When they returned to Canada from their first trip out of the country, Emelcris remembers how they were “welcomed home” by the Canada Border Service Agent. It was a very proud moment because they truly feel that Canada is home now.

Lyudmyla Makarova, Recruiting Supervisor

When Lyudmyla’s husband, Alex, first suggested that they immigrate to Canada from the Ukraine in 2006, she thought it was a crazy idea. However, after Alex completed the interview process with, what was then called Tyson Foods, now JBS Food Canada ULC (JBS), Lyudmyla recognized that moving to Canada would provide a better life for her family, especially for her two young sons.

In the Ukraine, Lyudmyla and Alex owned and operated a meat shop. Lyudmyla worked as an Accountant and Alex managed the shop. When Alex moved to Brooks, Alberta, Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker in December 2006, they closed the meat shop.

In Brooks, Alex began working as a butcher on the Slaughter floor, he spoke no English. After only one-and-one-half years he had reached the CLB4 level in English and could then apply to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program.

In 2008, Lyudmyla and her sons arrived in Canada. She began working at JBS March 2, 2009 in the Janitorial department. At about this same time, Alex was promoted to Lead Hand in Slaughter.

For three years Lyudmyla worked throughout the night and studied English during the day, while her sons attended school full-time. In 2010, the whole family received their Permanent Residency and by 2012, Lyudmyla had improved her English from level 0 to level 6 and applied for a role as Recruiting Clerk. She is now a Recruiting Supervisor for JBS.

Additionally, in 2011 Alex began working in the Maintenance department to pursue his Millwright apprenticeship, it is also when the family purchased their first home in Canada. “My whole family is so grateful. We have been given many opportunities by JBS and we love living in Brooks,” Lyudmyla says. “We feel that the town is so quiet and safe, we’ve built a great life here.”

In 2016 Alex received his Red Seal Millwright certificate and Lyudmyla’s eldest son, Vitaliy, also joined JBS as an Apprentice Electrician.

The family hope to become Citizens of Canada in 2017.

Lyudmyla and her family are indispensable members of the JBS Canada Team and we want to thank them for their dedication.

Ikram Ali, Waxline A-Shift

At 20 years old, when Ikram was separated from her family in a conflict, she found herself living in a refugee camp in East Africa. Though she left her mother and 11 brothers and sisters she maintained her strong resolve, saying that there was no certainty that if she went back to her home it would be the same. Instead, she decided to live on her own because going back might have been more dangerous. She made the choice to stay in the refugee camp until she was sponsored by the Government of Canada seven years later.

Ikram lived for a short time in Toronto when she first arrived in Canada in 2001. She made the move to Brooks when a friend who was living in the city suggested that she move to Alberta as well.

“Brooks is a very good place,” she says. “The children are safe here. In a big city you spend much more time getting to and from work, but here we are so close that you can spend so much more time with your children.” Ikram’s two children were both born in Brooks and attend school here, her 13-year-old son loves to play basketball.

The family is active in the Oromo community, they attend the mosque, community meetings, and BBQs with friends. “There is a lot of support here. We often get together with friends and the children can play,” Ikram says. “Canada is freedom. Nobody touches you. You can go to work, make money, get health care, raise your children. It is safe.”

When Ikram first began her career at JBS she worked on the arm line. After three years she moved to the waxline. Today, she completes all types of work on the waxline and in the ground beef area, even clean-up when it is needed. “I believe that it is important to have a good relationship with the people you work with, with your Supervisors and Superintendents. If they ask me to do something, I never say that it is not my job, I just do it.”

The waxline is an area of the ground beef department where the large containers of combo are stored. These large containers weigh in excess of 790 kilos when full. Ikram’s main responsibility in this area is to package a portion of the combo into smaller 60-lb boxes that are then stored in the blast freezer before being shipped to customers. “Ikram is always willing to go above and beyond,” Superintendent Deanne Marshall says. “She is very well cross-trained on multiple jobs in waxline and ground beef. When the lead hand is on vacation she’ll often step in and manage the waxline area.”

Ikram says that JBS allows opportunity for anyone to have a good job and make a living for themselves and their families. “This is a good job, it’s a good company. Every day everyone is working together, everyone is friendly.”

Darlene Hewitt, Sales Customer Service Representative

For Darlene, family is everything. She is the proud Grandmother of 6 and says her life revolves around her grandchildren - and she is lucky because she gets to see them nearly every day. “They are my biggest accomplishment in life. Between babysitting, Friday sleep-overs, Duffy’s Fun Centre, birthdays, hockey, tae-kwon-do and gymnastics, our lives are pretty much built around them,” she says of herself and her husband Moe.

When Darlene is not with her grandchildren, she works as a Sales Customer Service Representative at JBS where she gets to fulfill her other passion, speaking with people. “I’m a people person,” she says. “I love to make sure our customers are happy. We’re pretty determined here, when a customer needs something we make sure we leave no stone unturned.” Since 2011, when Darlene joined the Sales team as a Clerk, she says they have built a strong team. “I work with the best people, they’re like my other family.”

Darlene has had the opportunity to work in other teams throughout the facility as well. From 2006, she was the B-Shift Supervisor in the Cafeteria where she said she loved the job because she got to speak one-on-one with people. In 2009, after the owners of the cafeteria closed, she joined what was then called XL Foods as the Loading Coordinator in Material Handling. “It was a heavy work load,” she says. However, never one to give up on a challenge, Darlene worked for three years in Material Handling until, in 2011 after her third grandchild was born, she decided that she needed to make a change.

“I wanted to have more time to spend with them, but I also wanted to be the Grandma who could spoil her Grandkids, when I saw an opening for a Clerk on the Sales team, I thought it would be a good balance.” So she joined the Sales team in 2011 and hasn't looked back. “Coming from Material Handling, I worked with the Sales team a lot. But this gave me a new perspective on the challenges and opportunities when working with customers,” she says. “I like to see things through, I’m not a quitter and I’ve built some great relationships. I’ve even come to know my customers by voice now.”

Darlene and Moe came to Alberta in 2005 and 2004 respectively, from a community of about 100 homes in Newfoundland. She says sometimes she misses the smell of that fresh ocean air, the waves crashing right outside her window and of course, the seafood. “When Moe and I go home this summer, we will probably mail our clothes back so we can bring coolers of seafood home with us instead!”

However, she said she loves living in Alberta because she is so close to her four children and their children and she has her family here at work. “I am very proud to work for JBS,” she says. “I believe that everyone has opportunity here, it is up to them to find it.” In fact, she speaks so passionately about the company that Moe joined JBS as a member of the Building Maintenance Team two years ago as well.

Casimir Makabuza, Walking Shop Steward, UFCW Local 401

Prior to 1994, Casimir Makabuza was a Catholic Deacon and a teacher of Philosophy, Latin, French and Sociology in Rwanda, Congo and Burundi.

However when he landed in Moscow on his journey home from his vacation in Zurich, Switzerland in 1994, the authorities stripped him of his passport and visas, informing him that he could no longer travel. It was at this time that the majority Government in his home country, Rwanda, began to murder their own people in what marked the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide.

Due to the war, Casimir remained trapped for many months in the airport. He only learned of the news in his country from other travellers who passed through the airport. He did not know if his wife and two small children were safe, or even if they were alive.

At that time, Casimir was not the only person displaced by the war, trapped in the airport. One day he witnessed a murder of another refugee by the police. Upon writing a letter to the newspaper about the event, he gained the attention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. When the High Commissioner learned that Casimir had many connections with Canadian families from his time teaching, the Canadian Embassy was contacted, which later helped Casimir make contact with these families. After six months living in the airport in Moscow, he was sponsored by the Catholic Church to move to Canada.

“When I arrived in Canada I felt stranded. I didn’t know where my family was. I spent two years searching for them,” he says.

A journalist from CBC Radio Canada helped in his search. However for two years Casimir couldn’t find any information about his family.

Until one day, the Saint Franciscan Sisters in Montreal suggested that Casimir join them in watching a documentary that they had recorded on VHS about the Genocide in Rwanda.

To his disbelief, Casimir recognized his wife in the documentary! He discovered that she had been working for Doctors Without Borders after the war. He was able to make contact with is family and six months later, they were reunited in Quebec.

Casimir spent eight years in Montreal. While there, he went back to University and completed a degree in International Relations and in International Law. Afterwards, the family moved to Alberta seeking an opportunity for Casimir to teach in Edmonton. When he did not find success in his search, he decided to apply for a job at what was then called Tyson Foods in Brooks.

“I started working as a rover on the Harvest Floor in 2002. Upon moving to Brooks I was approached by the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Calgary because of my background in Philosophy and Theology. He offered me a role as Reverend in the St. Albans Anglican Church in Brooks.” A position that Casimir holds to this day. He also volunteered and held a position on the Board of Directors for the Global Immigration Centre in Brooks and additionally taught French for three years.

Casimir became Shop Steward for the Union in 2008 and enjoys the role because he has had the opportunity to learn all areas of the facility, meet many people from different cultures and build relationships and partnerships within the business. “I like working here,” he says. “It has become like a second family.”

Today, Casimir’s daughter attends University in Ottawa to become a nurse, his son lives in nearby Lethbridge and his wife has pursued a career back in Rwanda.

Montazar Al-Kefaae & Meena Al-Jaafari

When his father fled persecution in Iraq because of his unofficial involvement with the Arab Writers Union and his outspoken criticism of the Saddam regime, a 3-year-old Montazar Al-Kefaae didn’t imagine that he wouldn’t see him again for 27 years.

Years later, upon turning 18, Montazar studied and worked as a graphic designer in Jordan and Iraq, he also took the time to study Journalism in Lebanon before he began a Nursing degree in Iraq. “I had to complete my degree to avoid conscription into the army,” he says. “However I learned that nursing is not my passion. So when the Mayor of my town approached me to be the Editor for the provincial magazine and newspaper, I jumped at the opportunity.” Montazar worked as Editor-in-Chief for two years until, one day, he discovered a warning left in his desk drawer—a bullet in an envelope. “That’s when I decided that it was time to quit,” he say

Montazar married Meena Al-Jaafari in 2013. Shortly after, in 2014, he immigrated to Canada under sponsorship from his Father. “I have travelled a lot. I have a brother who lives in Sweden, two sisters who live in the Unites States and one sister who lives in Ontario. I knew in my heart that Canada was the country that would fit me best,” he says.

After arriving in Toronto and looking for employment unsuccessfully, Montazar began a road trip across the country that would change his life. Montazar tells the story: “I knew a truck driver, so I caught a ride with him to look for work outside of the city. We went all the way to Calgary and were on our way back to Toronto with no success. We stopped at JBS but it was the end of the day so there wasn’t any availability for interviews that day. We went into town for something to eat, which is when we found the M&J Donair restaurant. I let the man behind me in line go ahead and we started talking, I told him my story and it turns out that it was the HR Director, who then made special arrangements for me to have an interview.”

Montazar began working at JBS on the production floor in 2015, however he was quickly promoted to machine operator working on the Meat Master. In October 2016 he became Lead Hand in the Ground Beef department. His wife, Meena, arrived in Canada in 2016 and also began working at JBS in the packaging department, she has since moved to a manifester role. With a certificate in microbiology and experience working in a laboratory setting, Meena hopes to eventually put her previous skills to work for the company.

The couple spends much of their time outside of work volunteering and helping in the community. Additionally, since moving to Canada, Montazar discovered that he enjoys drawing and painting, which he does frequently at home. He also teaches computer science courses at the Medicine Hat College Brooks Campus and performs freelance website and graphic design for companies in Brooks. Meena hopes to become a volunteer at the Brooks Medical Centre.